Accountability can be a wonderful thing. It can hold back the most
errant flights of fancy; it can act as a powerful corrective on the
worst abuses of power and, above all, advertisers love it.
But there’s a problem with accountability, too, and it’s the one problem
with which new media has a more than a merely passing acquaintance.
Sooner or later, you’ve got to be accountable for something.
And so it is with new media, which is supposed to be growing up, and
which is now under pressure from all sides to stand up and be counted,
and start to deliver on its own considerable potential.
That was the thinking behind the launch last week of the first full
survey into Internet advertising, a serious research tool called ’net
works’ sponsored by a trio of heavyweight names including the Network,
the Electronic Telegraph and Millward Brown Interactive. Confirmation
that new media is developing followed, with the Network’s decision to
offer online planning and buying alongside the TV, press and radio
counterparts (Campaign, 23 May).
But simply wishing new media has progressed to a stage where it can be
regarded as another mainstream media discipline doesn’t necessarily make
’At the moment, new media is advertising and sponsorship driven,’ the
Telegraph’s marketing director, Hugo Drayton, says. ’That may change at
the Electronic Telegraph in the future with the development of
subscriptions, but it’s definitely a fact at the moment. And we have
done well in ad revenue terms, despite the absence of the sort of
research you would take for granted in other media, but we have got to
start delivering big growth. We have to be able to show advertisers that
we can deliver. This research is a huge part of that process.’
It helped that the Network was able to corral its clients, IBM and Ford,
into the research process: it helped too that the research findings made
all the right noises. They confirmed that the IBM and Ford Fiesta ads
that were tested did work, and that the online display advertising could
be said to increase awareness and change consumer predispositions in
favour of the advertised brands. All pretty encouraging stuff, as far as
’We think that this is an excellent first step towards making Web
advertising really accountable,’ the IBM UK ad manager, Rachael French,
says. ’For IBM, this is an important part of our business and marketing
strategies.’ And with reactions like that, it’s hard to find fault with
the Network’s decision to increase its new-media offering.
But it’s hard to find fault with the move on other grounds as well.
Hitherto online media buying has been merely an extra service that the
agency would be happy to provide for those clients wanting it, which was
fine as long as clients wished to dip their toes in the new medium, but
hardly ideal if they were looking for an integrated advertising
It might have been all right in the first few years of online
advertising for agencies to separate new media into a ghetto. As an
advertisement to clients of their technical competence in new media,
these interactive kingdoms have probably been worthwhile. But the debate
has moved on.
Jane Ostler, the digital communications planner at the Network, says
that the changes they have made are all about creating an integrated
package and not looking at one medium in isolation.
That should also mean advertisers asking for at least the same standards
of accountability from the medium as they already do elsewhere. But then
maybe, as the ’net works’ research helps to illustrate, new media
doesn’t have anything to fear.